St. Nicholas is responsible for the stocking’s link to Christmas. The legend goes that in the fourth century he threw coins down a chimney to help a poor father with a dowry for his youngest daughter. The coins landed in a stocking drying by the fire. Putting oranges and tangerines in stockings has long been a way of representing this golden generosity.
Christmas stockings were firmly in public consciousness by the 19th century. The 1823 poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” twice refers to stockings and German-born, American-based illustrator Thomas Nast’s cartoon “Christmas Morning” showed children rummaging through stockings for presents. In 1854, Susan Warner had her book published entitled: “Carl Krinken; or, The Christmas stocking”. It tells of a poor boy who receives a magical, talking stocking. In 1869, Nast’s drawing of Father Christmas taking toys from his sack near a fireplace bearing four stockings is further proof of their growing use at this time in America. It appears in George Webster’s story: “Santa Claus And All His Works”. Among the many and varied Christmas drawings by Nast (1840-1902) is one of a small boy standing on the head of a bearskin rug, nailing a stocking – personalised with the word ‘Mother’ – to the mantelpiece.
Stockings & Socks
The How to Christmas team are big fans of Christmas stockings. Sacks, bags and even pillowcases are all great for gifts of bulk and quantity. But there is something magical about hanging a Christmas stocking on a mantle or bedpost ready for Father Christmas to fill with tiny treats. Be it a long candy-cane-striped sock or a bespoke hand-stitched beauty, don’t put your foot in it this Christmas – use a stocking.
notonthehighstreet.com – huge & joyous selection; thewhitecompany.com – woollen wonders, big style; potterybarn.com – for discerning American customers. Sumptuous US velvet.
Luxurious Red Christmas Stockings by Santa’s Little Workshop: each stocking across the range of sizes is made in Britain with a ‘Santa’s Little Workshop’ leather patch attached. Sumptuously soft red stockings with white cuffs are a traditionalist’s dream. All can be personalised. Metal hooks and hangers are also to be found at santaslittleworkshop.co.uk.
Woodland Owl Stocking by the Christmas Home at Not on the High Street: one of our creative favourites, with a large owl dominating proceedings. “Oh what big eyes you have Mr. Owl – and made of buttons we see! And what furry wings.” All things ‘owl’ seem more popular than ever. Made from fur, crochet and cotton in natural tones and 48cm in length, this is quirky and fun. You might say it’s a bit of a hoot? No? Okay, you win.
Dog Print Christmas Stocking by Mutt & Hounds at Not on the High Street: perfect for a treasured person or pooch – two dog print stockings designed by renowned artist and dog illustrator Jo Chambers at Studio Legohead, featuring some of Mutt & Hounds favourite dogs. These stockings are available in two subtle colours.
Ho Ho Ho Personalised Christmas Stocking by Lime Tree London at Not on the High Street: a cute Father Christmas appliqué on a vibrant red background makes this a wonderful choice for youngsters.
The White Company Goes Big: the woollen adult stockings are tasteful and ideal for any decor. But our annual delight comes when the White Company ‘bigs it up’ with huge stockings and sacks.
Letter to Santa Stocking by Lime Tree London at Not on the High Street: there is a fabric envelope on the front of this stocking in which to put a letter to Father Christmas. It can be personalised with a printed name. This is an absolute winner.
Personalised Cable Knit Santa Stocking by Santa Sacks at Not on the High Street: handmade in Britain and perfect for the men in your life. The stocking is finished with a luxury handmade saddle stitched brown leather personalised luggage tag. Santa Sacks also produce Nordic-style heart motif cotton stockings with personalised wooden heart, felt heart and cinnamon bundle and delightful vintage style stockings in Christmas pudding, Rudolph and robin designs. Each vintage pudding, reindeer or robin stocking is unique, handmade and piped and lined in soft 100 percent cotton fabric.
Personalised Spotty Christmas Stocking by The Alphabet Gift Shop through Not on the High Street: white dots on a red background, with lovely trim and delightful personalisation from the Sue Dorling-owned shop in Derbyshire.
Embroidered Mistletoe Christmas Stocking by Kate Sproston Design through Not on the High Street: made from 100 percent virgin wool with a cotton lining, these stockings come in traditional festive deep red or stone colours and are country cottage perfection. They can be personalised via a name embroidered on to a heart-shaped tag.
Personalised Chunky Knit Christmas Stocking by Chi Chi Moi through Not on the High Street– For £75 you get Pom-Poms, chunky knit, a personalised touch and a stocking of class.
Personalised Velvet Stocking at Pottery Barn: every year US store Pottery Barn produce beautifully sumptuous stockings that can be personalised. The red velvet stocking with white cuff and red stitched names are simple but gorgeous. The Crewel Embroidered Stockings are stunning. Pottery Barn has even introduced a stocking Advent calendar. We could go on…the choice is dazzling. Best instead to check out potterybarn.com if you reside in the US.
Elf Helper: If you have children to buy for this Christmas and they love their Disney characters, visit the Disney Store for a selection of adorable stockings and sacks.
If you want to take the truly old-fashioned route, don’t forget the good old sock. Turner & Sons have British-made Merino wool over-the-calf red socks that would double perfectly as a stocking for Christmas trinkets. Visit turnershosiers.co.uk.
Corgi socks have been made in the Welsh Amman Valley for the last hundred years and trade under Royal Appointment to the Prince of Wales. The Corgi women’s cashmere cotton stripe knee-high socks are just the job for hanging from the bedstead. Buy a pair, fill one almost to the top with gifts and roll up the second sock to stuff in last of all – a kind of ‘sock-stopper’ if you like. Corgi socks are widely available, including online at sockshop.co.uk.
And here’s a sock-fuelled idea for children. Buy an inexpensive pack of festive socks – ones with designs of Santa or Rudolph maybe – and a pack of wooden Christmas pegs. Attach the socks to a length of red ribbon or coloured cord with the pegs to form ‘sock bunting’. Hang up the bunting in a children’s bedroom. Each sock can be filled with edible treats and tiny trinkets on Christmas Eve.
Other Stuff To Stuff Stuff In To…
St. Nicholas is the great gift bringer across many parts of Europe. Children on the continent don’t go in for the stocking thing so much. Instead they leave footwear out by the fire or on windowsills, like clogs, shoes and wellies, ready to be packed with gifts. It’s a case of fill your boots. This option enables you to double-up the holder as a useful gift. You could try Hunter Original Kids’ Wellington Boots in red or Kids’ Iko Trik Scandinavian Wooden Clogs. A hanging shoe tidy can be used in place of a stocking or sack, with pocket upon pocket to fill with presents. Shoe or kitbags with drawstrings are also ideal. Woollen mittens on a string tied to a child’s bedpost and filled with small trinkets are a cute alternative. And don’t overlook the power of the pillowcase. Many of us doubtless grew up with gifts stuffed into pillowcases at the bottom of our beds before the mind-blowing array of stockings and sacks hit shops. For an all pink girl’s room, a simple pink pillowcase will work with maybe a giant name tag and cute decoration attached. There are also pillowcases covered in cartoon characters, superhero motifs and football team logos that can work wonderfully well.
Hanging Shoe Tidy by Cath Kidston
Fusion Over the Door Grey Shoe Organiser at John Lewis
Knitted Merino Wool Mittens at esty.com
Shoe/Kit Bag by Hidden Lily through notonthehighstreet.com
“Sleep Tight” pillowcases at notonthehighstreet.com
Tailor your stockings to the hobbies, likes, loves and passions of your family and friends with themed stockings. Check out our Movie Gift Boxes page for ideas on how to create a film theme. You might want to adapt “The Grinch” box for stocking use by purchasing a furry red and white stocking, attaching a Grinch badge and hanging it with lime green ribbon. Include such gifts as the cartoon and live action versions of the life of the Grinch on DVD, vibrant green jellybeans, popcorn, candy canes, green Tic-tacs, a tree decoration of the ‘green and mean one’ and a soft toy dog in honour of the Grinch’s pet Max. Here are more ideas:
For Gardeners: Hit the local garden centre and you will be awash with possibilities. We suggest: gardening gloves, packets of seeds, secateurs, trowel, birdseed balls, robin Christmas tree decoration.
For Chocolate Lovers: With so much ‘posh’ chocolate around at Christmas, why not fill a stocking with some regular bars and bags of deliciousness that will go down a treat with any chocolate lover – Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, Turkish Delight, Picnic, Bounty, Lion Bar, Ripple, Flake, Kit Kat, Maltesers, Crunchie, Aero, Minstrels…need we go on?
For Coffee Addicts: Do you know someone who relishes a coffee fix, then you might consider: Christmas filter coffee, Nespresso pods, Starbucks coffee sachets, chocolate sprinkles, stencils for chocolate topping, espresso cup and saucer, chocolate stirring spoon, crystal sugar stirring sticks, flavoured syrups.
For Pets: your cats and dogs deserve stockings too so think sweet and savoury treats, squeaky toys, collars, name tags, portable and foldable feeding bowls.
For Teenagers: Do you find teenagers especially hard to buy for? Don’t despair. Try: iTunes gift cards, scratch cards, bookplates, smart phone covers, Pizza Express gift cards, Nando’s gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, chocolates, Joe & Seph’s small popcorn bags, Ciate nail polish in bauble-shaped packaging, Santa-suited rubber duck.
For Children: Little ones are so easy to please at Christmas and there is seemingly no shortage of choice. But we want to offer you a few novel ideas along with the more obvious. For starters, include note-cards in each stocking offering the priceless gift of time. Write something like this on the cards: “Stay up 30 minutes extra before bedtime” or “One late-night pass to stay up to watch the match”. You could make it a Monopoly-style ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card with words like: “Get out of cleaning your room for a week”. It is then up to the children when they produce the cards to their best advantage. This could work both ways if you encourage your children to write IOU gift cards to you on which they spell out their intentions, like: “IOU one free car wash” for Dad or “IOU breakfast in bed” for Mum.
Elf Helper: Another great idea for kids – and hopefully a little Christmas morning present to you – is the “torch-annual-tangerine” combo. Growing up in Glasgow, one of our friends always found these three things in the stocking at the end of his bed. It was an orange, not a tangerine, in his case. When he woke at the crack of dawn, he could eat the orange to stave off hunger pangs while reading his annual to torchlight. He knew Father Christmas had visited, but didn’t quite feel the need to rush off and wake Mum and Dad. Even if this buys you an extra hour’s sleep on Christmas morning, it’s a pretty good gift.
CLICK HERE for our CHRISTMAS STOCKING GIFTS page under the Gifts & Wrapping category for a selection of Children’s and adult’s stocking fillers we love.
Stocking Filler Ideas:
Books; bookmarks; bookplates; pens; notepads; diaries; music gift cards; CDs; DVDs; playing cards; cufflinks; aftershave; perfume; cosmetics; nail polish; nail files; compacts; jewellery; perfumed soaps; shower gel; candles; candlesnuffers; candlewick trimmers; scented tea-lights; tea-light holders; diffuser oil; wine bottle stoppers; wine pourers; alcohol miniatures; tea; coffee; cookie cutters; cake testers; pie birds; chocolates; sweets; candy canes; mini mint tins; mini mince pies; scratch cards; lottery tickets; tree ornaments; socks; coasters; craft kits; gardening gloves; picture frames; magazine subscriptions; business card holders; purses; wallets; key rings.
Elf Helper: When you buy beauty products, perfume and aftershave through the year you will almost always be given free samples. Keep them tucked away in a box or bag and use them as stocking fillers come December.
Santa Sacks & Bulging Bags
Father Christmas really started something with that bulging velvet sack of his, overflowing with presents and the promise of so many more riches within. Now we all want one. Delightfully wrapped gifts piled up around the tree are a must. But a batch more hidden in a bulging bag is enticement personified.
Not on the High Street has a tremendous choice of personalised and generic gift sacks from around £7 to £100. Here are some of the best at notonthehighstreet.com:
Santa’s Little Workshop: creators of products inspired by Santa’s sack. These plush red sacks with white faux fur trim and rope-effect cords come in a variety of sizes and are hand-made in the UK. They can be personalised on the back with two initials. The super sack is 82cm x 55cm. The brand was born from their 2008 window design collaboration with Selfridges. These products are also available at santaslittleworkshop.co.uk.
SnuggleDust Studios: we have purchased from this company through Not on the High Street and been delighted with the end product – in particular the colourful, child-friendly design on a personalised sack. It’s a winner. And the largest size of sack is ideal for bulkier festive goodies.
A Type of Design: these fantastic sacks read “priority delivery via sleigh air mail”. They can be personalised with a name in large red letters across the middle. White with a drawstring and pleasing design, these sacks come in two sizes – the largest is 75cm x 50cm.
Harrow & Green: top quality, personalised hessian sacks in a choice of words like “Do Not Open Until 25 Dec” and “Christmas Deliveries Direct from Father Christmas”. All designed and printed in its London studio, we prefer “Express Mail Service” with a crown logo on top and space for first, middle and surnames in red lettering.
Alice Palace: personalised sacks with drawstrings in a choice of four delightful designs ensuring there’s something for boys and girls, be they tots or that little bit older. All are printed in England and are 100 percent cotton. They are simply delightful.
Tailored Chocolates & Gifts: the large “Santa Please Stop Here” sack, we know from personal purchasing experience, is charming and has ample room for the recipient’s first name and surname. Red and black print on a canvas sack: tasteful for youngsters and adults alike.
Catherine Colebrook: for hessian sacks with a basic design, with initials instead of names – or with an extra-personal message. You might not want personalised sacks but a collection to use time and again at home or to deliver presents in through the holiday season. Snowflakes or hearts, for example, are printed red, black or grey. This Gloucestershire-based seller also makes sacks with large initial letters on them, along with personalised message sacks where you can choose from a variety of messages.
Santa Sacks: a sumptuous cable knitted sack is great for the men in your household. These sacks are handmade in Britain, with a cable-knitted front and pure linen reverse and are sized 65cm x 45cm. Edged with distressed leather, this also comes with a luxury handmade saddle stitched brown leather personalised luggage label. Not surprisingly from a company with such a name, its choice of other Santa sacks in a variety of designs is large and enticing. One certain common denominator is quality.
Elf Helper: Look out for personalised Santa sack concessions in department stores, like Selfridges. You can select your hessian sack, design and name and have it created while you wait – or ask for it to be ready to collect when you have completed the rest of your shopping.
Hooks & Holders
Hanging stockings from a bedpost may be the answer if you don’t have a fireplace and mantelpiece. But if you do, you will likely need a hook or a holder from which to hang a stocking. There are some fine examples of these heavyweight carriers on the market – many made to last a lifetime.
It is essential you are clear on the weight of stocking and gifts the holders will take before you part with your money. Some holders or hangers will merely be ornamental, capable of carrying only an empty stocking. Reputable suppliers should outline such details on their websites. Once you have taken possession of your holder, you can put it to the test with a stocking full of unbreakable objects (think pebbles, bags of sugar etc.) before setting up your Christmas ornaments, lights and garlands on the mantle. You don’t want to have everything dragged off when Santa drops in those stocking fillers on Christmas Eve. Our theory is buy a holder and stocking that add to your Christmas decor and will give you joy in the build up to the big day. Santa can simply rest the filled stocking by the hearth without having to figure out how much weight the holder can take.
Santa’s Little Workshop Hooks: Forged objects of fine craftsmanship are hand-finished with a metal brush and sealed with natural beeswax. There’s a decorative spiral hook, a mantel hook or a classic ‘S’ hook. Santa’s Little Workshop website reads: “What better way to hang up your stockings and sacks on Christmas Eve than with a magical forged iron hook? The same artisan blacksmith who makes the flying horseshoes for the reindeer every Christmas Eve forges these objects of fine craftsmanship using traditional methods and a sprinkle of enchantment.” More at santaslittleworkshop.co.uk.
Photo Frame Hangers: Dibor offer French-style accessories for the home – although these cast iron photo frame stocking holders, finished in dark antique brown, are not quintessentially French and would work in many settings. Visit dibor.co.uk.
Wooden Wonders: ‘Make Me Something Special’ design and manufacture wonderful wooden gifts for all occasions – and can personalise most anything. That includes bespoke stocking holders. This British company prides itself on using only the finest timber. Its personalised stocking holders are made of solid oak and have space for a tea-light in the top (they can also be made into a bowl). The company points out on its website that the holders are suitable only for empty stockings. Visit the website at makemesomethingspecial.com.
Metallic Christmas: The Christmas collection of holders and hangers is extensive at blackcountrymetalworks.co.uk: anything from a Christmas mouse to an ornate wreath. All are made from solid brass and are available in a variety of designs and finishes, including bright chrome and polished brass.
Pottery Barn: For our American friends, US store Pottery Barn stocks winning hooks and hangers, including the Alphabet Holder, Santa’s Sleigh Holder and the Engravable Frame Holder. There are also stunning illuminated options. Check out potterybarn.com.
No Fireplace – No Problem
The next best place is a bedpost, especially in a child’s room. Also, there are some delightfully crafted six-knob wall hangers for Christmas stockings, including a handmade wooden creation we saw in red with gold italic lettering. It reads: “The Stockings Were Hung…”: if you don’t have a fireplace or a mantelpiece this could be the answer. Even if you do, perhaps you don’t like the idea of hanging objects near an open fire. Again, you can put this wooden hanger on a wall and the job’s a good ‘un. There are several such options through etsy.com. A key rack may serve a similar purpose, albeit less ornate. And there are these other stocking hanging options available to you: on a door handle; on the back of dining room chairs; from a curtain pole; from the banister; from a bookshelf and from furniture knobs/handles.
Stand alone metal holders for use on the floor are widely available in the USA for the mantle-less public – most normally in the shape of a cross. But there are also ones with tripod feet and small hooks protruding from a central metal bar. Alas, they are not readily available in the UK. However, you can have them shipped. Try the American version of Amazon at amazon.com. Plus, you can always improvise by placing a pronged metal boot rack on a shelf and hang stockings from that.
Mantle Clips are another option for hanging stockings on the fireplace. There are many metallic choices at amazon.co.uk and ebay.co.uk, including some with an antique brass finish and others in silver with a subtle snowflake design. The clips lie flat to the mantle so won’t obscure other decorations. They can also hold lights and garlands and are most normally adjustable for up to three-inch-thick mantles.